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Crackdown on Lalgarh Maoists

In a fierce gunbattle that raged for nearly six hours this morning,security forces eliminated an entire Maoist squad in the Ranja forest...

In a fierce gunbattle that raged for nearly six hours this morning,security forces eliminated an entire Maoist squad in the Ranja forest of Salboni in West Midnapore district. West Bengal police officials called the operation,on the eve of the first anniversary of joint operations on June 18,a “major success” in the fight against Maoists in Lalgarh.

After the firefight,police claimed to have killed at least 15 Maoists but could recover the bodies of eight,including three female squad members,until this evening. The operation was carried out by a special commando force of the CRPF,including Cobra.

The Maoist squad was led by commander Bikash. He was said to have escaped,using his cadres as a shield. “It was to ensure Bikash’s safe passage that the Maoist squad took such heavy casualty,” said a security official involved in the operation.

Bikash is a Maoist state committee member for Bengal-Jharkhand-Orissa region and is commander of the Lalgarh squad. Most killings in the Lalgarh region of West Midnapore in the last two years have been attributed to the squad he leads.

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There were also unconfirmed reports that Akash,Maoist military commission regional chief,had been killed in the operation. “We are trying to verify the news of his death. So far,there is no confirmation. The search for bodies is still on in the forest,” said an official.

Among the three female Maoists killed in the operation was Lakshmi who led the attack on the Eastern Frontier Rifles camp in Silda on February 15,killing 24 personnel. The other two were identified as Mala and Radha and they appeared to be in their teens. An official said these were given names and it could take some time to establish their real identities.

Maoist casualties confirmed that Bikash’s Lalgarh squad was joined by cadres from Jharkhand. One of the bodies found was that of Arjun Munda,a Jharkhand Maoist. Another was of Sagen Mahato,a Maoist from Lalgarh.


West Midnapore SP Manoj Verma said: “The exchange of fire at Ranja forest near Lalgarh began around 4 am and continued till 10 am. The spot was 30 km from the district headquarters. We have recovered eight bodies,including those of three women. Arms and ammunition have been seized and a camp of the Maoists in the area was overrun by security forces. We believe that the Maoist toll will rise. Several of those killed or injured may have been carried into the forests. An injured Maoist has been arrested.”

Another official said they received information that Maoists were camping near Pirakata. “Bikash was probably present at the spot when security forces cracked down. But it appears he directed his squad members to give him cover and he fled. We are trying to collect more information on this.”

Security forces seized an AK-47 assault rifle,an SLR,2 pistols,4 single-barrel guns,four double-barrel guns,100 detonators,two mines and explosives and ammunition.

First published on: 17-06-2010 at 03:09:30 am
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